The COMAC C919 is a part of China’s efforts to gain significant market share in the production of large commercial airliners. And after receiving type certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) last week, we will reveal all that we know about the largest commercial airliner designed and built in China.

Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC)

COMAC's Logo
COMAC’s Logo

On May 11, 2008, COMAC, a state-owned manufacturer in China, was founded in Shanghai with the primary goal of being a major player in the large airliner manufacturing market, mentioning that this is one of the most technologically challenging industries. Boeing and Airbus have remained the major players in this market for so long, evidence of their expertise and resilience in the face of adversity.

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COMAC’s Plan

COMAC intends to have solutions for every segment of the airliner manufacturing market, beginning with one-third of the world’s airliner needs; the 158 – 174 seat market (which Boeing and Airbus are fiercely competing over, as these aircraft are the backbone of Low-Cost Carrier fleets); the C919, the C292, offering 300 seats and the C939 offering 400 seats

COMAC C919

COMAC C919
Image Source: COMAC

The C919 is a twin-engined, low-wing, single-aisle aircraft designed and built in China that is similar in layout to the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. In appearance, it resembles the A320 more than the 737. The nose section is sleek looking much like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, whereas the tail section of the fuselage is more Airbus-like, with the cabin roof rather than the Boeing style f having a cone with the endpoint halfway between the top and bottom of the fuselage.

READ | What’s special about A320?

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Design and production

Design and production of COMAC C919
The assembly of the COMAC C919 takes place in Shanghai

Shanghai is the main focus of the C919’s design and production. The various components that comprise the C919 are manufactured by other entities, as the condition with Airbus and Boeing. The flaps, ailerons, wing panels, center, and outer wing boxes, for example, are manufactured in Xi’an, China. Jiangxi Province will produce the fuselage sections. These components will be assembled in Shanghai to form the final product C919. The majority of the C919’s airframe is made of aluminum alloys, with the center wing box made of carbon fiber composite materials.

Is it 100% Chinese?

Is COMAC 100% Chinese
Image Source: COMAC

While the C919 is said to be China’s own homegrown airliner, many parts are still supplied by foreign manufacturers. This is not surprising given that both Boeing and Airbus use the same strategy in the production of their own airliners. While the list of suppliers currently includes many non-Chinese entities, this is only until China can develop its own technology to manufacture these parts. The engines currently supplied by the General Electric-AVIC joint venture, for example, will be replaced by the Chinese-developed CJ1000. While the C919 is said to be China’s own homegrown airliner, many parts are still supplied by foreign manufacturers.

COMAC C919's Engine
COMAC C919’s Engine

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This is not surprising given that both Boeing and Airbus use the same strategy in the production of their own airliners. While the list of suppliers currently includes many non-Chinese entities, this is only until China can develop its own technology to manufacture these parts. The engines currently supplied by the General Electric-AVIC joint venture, for example, will be replaced by the Chinese-developed CJ1000. The following is a list of some of the main component suppliers for the C919:

COMPONENTSUPPLIER
EnginesLeap X1C engine supplied by CFMI, a joint venture between US-based General Electric and French-based SNECMA.  
AvionicsRockwell Collins, Honeywell, CETC, GE AVIC, (General Electric joint venture with AVIC (Aviation Industry Corporation of China)
Fight Control System – Full Authority Fly by wire and advanced active control technology.Parker, AVIC, Honeywell, MOOG
Landing Gear SystemLiebherr
Hydraulic SystemParker, AVIC
Air Conditioning SystemLiebherr
Electric SystemHamilton, Sundstrand, AVIC
Flight Deck and Cabin InteriorFACC, XML
APU (auxiliary power unit)Honeywell, AVIC
Fire protectionKIDDE, AVIC
Lighting SystemGoodrich, AVIC, TM, Jiuzhou, Eaton
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COMAC C919’s Orders

28 Chinese customers have reportedly already placed 815 orders with Comac for the C919, though the majority of these haven’t been confirmed and many come from lessors who haven’t yet found an airline for the aircraft. 2,241 Boeing and Airbus narrowbody aircraft, are currently in service, including at least 546 more on order, with the so-called “big three” airlines of China: China Eastern, Air China Ltd., China Southern Airlines Co., and Hainan Airlines.

COMAC C919's Orders
Chart source: bloomberg

For the time being, the plane will only be able to fly within China until it is certified by foreign regulators. Earlier, the US Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment, directing inquiries to Chinese regulators. Normally, the FAA would review the design of another country’s jet to certify it for use in the US, but given the current tensions between the two countries and China’s lack of action on restoring the 737 Max to service, it’s unclear how that will work in this case.

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According to a spokeswoman for the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), EASA has been working with Comac and the Chinese regulator for several years, but “cannot comment on the date when this validation would be completed.

C919’s Specs

Image Source: CFP

The 156-174 seat C919 is the first iteration of COMAC’s planned family of airliners.
This will be the smallest of the plane makers’ offerings, and it appears to be available in six different configurations. The offerings are called: Baseline, Stretched, Freighter, Shortened, Business and Specials.

The flight deck of the C919 is very similar to that of the Airbus, with a side stick instead of a yoke as in Boeing airliners. The instrumentation is cutting-edge, with two 15.4-inch main display screens in front of each pilot and a 12.5-inch side screen beneath the window. In addition, the C919 will be available with a HUD (Head Up Display).

COMAC C919 Cockpit
The C919 flight deck features a side control stick in place of the centre control column preferred by Boeing. As well as the large display screens, note the HUD glass panels at the top of the picture.
C919 Mixed ClassC919 ALL ECONOMYC919 HIGH DENSITY
Seating158 in 2 classes168 in all economy 174 in all economy
Seating Pitch12 seats – 97cm 144 seats – 81cm168 seats – 81cm174 seats – 76cm
Fuselage Length38.9 Metres
Fuselage Width3.95 Metres
Tail Height11.95 Metres
Wing Span 35.8 Metres
Wing Area129.15 Square Metres
Cabin Width3.9 Metres
Cabin Height2.25 Metres
MTOW72,500 kg – 77,300 kg
Maximum Fuel24,364 L
Maximum Payload20,400 kg
Empty Weight42,100 kg
Range Fully LadenStandard – 4,075 km (2,200 nm)
Extended Range – 5,555 km (2,999 nm)
CruiseMach .785 / 598 mph / 969 Kph
Take-off Distance2,000 M / 6,600 ft
Extended Range 2,200 M / 7,200 ft
Service Ceiling12,100 M / 39,700 ft
Approach Speed135 kn / 250 kph
Landing/Span1,600 M / 5,200 ft
EnginesCFM International LEAP 1C / COMAC CJ-1000A
Thrust137.9 kN (31,000 lbf)
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B737MAX Vs. A320NEO Vs. C919

It is well known that China has the second-largest and most significant civil aviation market in the world, closely following the United States of America, and according to predictions, more people will fly between, to, and from China than any other country in the world in less than ten years. Due to this and in an effort to limit the amount of imported aircraft entering China, COMAC decided to create its own family of short- and medium-range aircraft, ensuring that the oligopoly led by Airbus and Boeing won’t hinder the growth of the civil aviation market within China.

B737MAX Vs. A320NEO Vs. C919
Image source: Globelynews
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Furthermore, given that the majority of Chinese airlines are owned by the government, it stands to reason that they would favor the C919 for their medium-haul programs. If that is the case, Airbus and Boeing would suffer greatly because COMAC and other Chinese manufacturers would gradually take over the roughly 80% of the market that they currently hold.

Airbus A320 FamilyBoeing 737 FamilyCOMAC C919
Passenger Capacity140-244137-230158 – 168
Range (Maximum)5,430 miles4,430 miles3,450 miles
Order backlog6,100+3,400+815+
Total Produced10,400+10,900+1+

So, what do you think about the C919, and do you think that COMAC will be a challenging competitor for Boeing and Airbus? Let us know your opinion below.

By Youssef Yahya

Hello everyone! I’m Youssef Yahya, the founder of Aviation for Aviators. I’m an Egyptian, born and raised in Saudi Arabia. My passion for aviation can’t be described! I fell in love with this field since childhood, these times when I was used to watching “Air Crash Investigation” on “National Geographic” every Tuesday night, this enthusiasm got and will always get evolved on each and every flight. My dream job since 10 was to live in the skies as a commercial pilot, this dream began when I was on an outbound flight operated by, the queen of the skies, a Boeing 747, I was just amazed by how aircraft fly and the amazing mechanism of these birds!!

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